A Yorkshire-based soap business is awash with success after having its best trading period in its history.
The Yorkshire Soap Company which launched in 2004 and has six outlets across the region, has posted its best ever trading year and is looking forward to opening further outlets in 2017, with a predicted turnover of £5m.
Co-founder Warren Booth, originally from Copmanthorpe in York, started making soaps to sell while managing the Louis Vuitton concession at Harrods in London. In 2004, he and former chef Marcus Doyle, from Ripponden near Halifax, started making and selling the soaps from a small gift shop in Hebden Bridge with just £500.
As a qualified chef, Marcus looked to use his experience as inspiration and quickly perfected the hand-crafted soap cupcakes for which the company is now renowned. Unable to afford expensive soap moulds, Marcus used what he had around him – cake moulds and baking cases – and created a world of scrumptious soaps.
Now made in the soap kitchen in York, the range of handmade cupcakes are the best-selling products amongst the entire range. Expansion followed as other stores were acquired and its reputation grew.
Twelve years later, the business employs 65 staff and boasts premises in Leeds, Beverley, Knaresborough, two stores in York as well as the original Hebden Bridge premises. Further stores are planned for 2017. Warren and Marcus attribute their success to a hands-on approach and constant innovation as well as guidance and support from speciality soap base manufacturers, Stephenson Personal Care, part of the Stephenson Group, based in Horsforth.
Twice winner of the Queen’s Award for export, Stephenson Personal Care is a family-owned business which develops and supplies products for personal care brands and manufacturers worldwide – from large blue chip brands to small and medium sized craft businesses, such as The Yorkshire Soap Company.
Marcus Doyle said: “When we started out we were literally a kitchen based manufacturing business and as we began to grow we needed a quality supplier of the soap base required to make our products, who we could really count on. We came into contact with Stephenson Personal Care and haven’t looked back since – they’ve been so supportive of our business and helped us grow into the operation we are today. It’s been a real collaborative approach since the get go.
“Our ethos remains the same as the day we started and everything we produce is hand crafted by our own staff, who we train inhouse. It’s important for us to be able to count on the support of our partners and Stephenson Groups have has played a crucial role in our development, mixing science with soap!
“We hope to double our number of existing shops in the next four years so it’s vital to have reliable and stable relationships in place in order to meet demand from a market that is still evolving rapidly.”
With their Blake Street store in York, the pair opened what is believed to be the biggest soap shop in the world, covering more than 2,000 sq ft and selling over 6,000 hand made products.
But it hasn’t always been plain sailing for the ambitious entrepreneurs, two years ago the original Hebden Bridge store was hit by floods, potentially having a catastrophic effect as virtually all stock was destroyed. Sensing the impact this could have, Stephenson Personal Care delivered nine pallets of emergency soap base material free of charge which Marcus and Warren were able to turn into £10k worth of saleable stock, effectively keeping them afloat.
Marcus added: “The flood damage could have finished us off as a business at a critical time in our development cycle. To generously donate free product to us showed the faith and interest Stephenson Personal Care had in us as a business and a long term customer.
“We’ll never forget that act of kindness and such generosity is rare in businesses these days. This is why we continue to work with them, ordering around 20 tonnes and counting of consistently high quality soap base material from them each year.”
Christopher Holmes, director of business development at Stephenson Personal Care, said: “From the moment I first met Marcus and Warren, I knew they were determined to succeed. Having been involved with them now for the last 8 years, we’ve watched them grow from a home-based business into a successful multi-branch retailer of some of the most innovative, highest quality soap products and gifts available on the market.
“The business continues to go from strength to strength and we’ll continue to support them as they rollout further stores. As a fifth generation family business with over 160 years of expertise, we know just how important cultivating the right relationships and partnerships can be.”